Pearl Harbor survivor to speak Sunday at Everett church

Ray Wans saw the first Japanese bomber from a window of the USS Curtiss, anchored in Pearl Harbor.

He was peeling an apple and heard a plane dive. He saw the bombs strike the airstrip.

“Half of my division was killed or wounded in Pearl Harbor,” said Wans, who was 17 years old on Dec. 7, 1941.

He survived the attack without injury.

Wans is one of the dwindling number of survivors and World War II veterans alive in the U.S. Now 89, the Navy veteran is scheduled to give a speech during a special Memorial Day service at Grace Lutheran Church, 11 a.m. Sunday, 8401 Holly Drive in Everett. A potluck is planned after the service. Everyone is invited.

Hearing a witness tell the story of World War II is important because it makes the message more powerful, said George Howard, the church council president.

“There aren’t many Pearl Harbor survivors and WWII veterans left. We need to listen to them while they are still here,” Howard said.

Wans walking away without an injury is even more remarkable because a bomber shot from the air crashed into the Curtiss, a seaplane tender, several decks above him. He helped carry the burned bodies of his fellow sailors to the hangar deck.

He carried one sailor from Texas whose face was completely burned. The man pleaded with Wans to tell his family what had happened.

“I never saw him again,” Wans said. “We sent him to the clinic and he never came back.”

During the war, Wans served on different ships, including the USS Hornet CV-12 in which he fought in 10 battles.

He also served on the aircraft carrier USS Hancock that raided Japan in the last part of the war. Japanese pilots searched for the ship at night, but never found them, he said.

He was about 200 miles from Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 6, 1945.

“I saw one of the first bombs and saw one of the last bombs of the war,” Wans said.

He retired in October 1945 as coxswain.

Wans lives with his wife Nancy in Everett. Their two daughters live in Marysville and their son lives in California with his family. The couple have two adult grandchildren.

Wans has been speaking about the war for years, but is reducing the number of his talks because of his health. Still he says telling his story is important. He wants people to remember.

“I want to show the sacrifice of these boys so their sacrifice wasn’t in vain,” Wans said.

Wans also wants to encourage a new generation of enlisted men and women to learn from history to better protect their families.

“It’s up to these young people to defend our country,” he said.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

A wobbly calf grows into a 1,800-pound Lake Stevens behemoth

A shaggy and sometimes cranky bison is the last of his herd. He lives amid encroaching suburbia.

Elderly couple escape serious injuries in crash with train

The driver drove down tracks instead of a road, hitting a slow-moving train near Stanwood.

Officials ID man shot and killed in apparent Everett robbery

Police believe the victim may have known the shooter, who drove away before the officers arrived.

Man, 60, in critical condition after Bothell crash

Police believe the driver may have been speeding when he hit a rock wall.

Missing Marysville woman found safe out of state

A Marysville senior who was reported missing in March has… Continue reading

FBI operation arrests 3 linked to exploitation of 32 women

The sting focused on Everett and other cities in Snohomish, King, Pierce, Skagit and Spokane counties.

Front Porch

EVENTS Seahawks event postponed A Toys for Tots Blue Friday fundraiser that… Continue reading

Man arrested in Monroe Walmart robbery; second suspect flees

The pair fled in a stolen Mitsubishi Lancer with a distinctive green spray paint job.

Dead boy’s ‘gentle giant’ uncle helped search, then confessed

Andrew Henckel, 19, of Texas, said he planned the drowning of Dayvid Pakko, 6. His bail is $1 million.

Most Read